With rising coronavirus rates in the St. Louis area, businesses in St. Louis County are being told they will have to scale back on occupancy limits. In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, parishes in the county also will be limiting their capacity to the new rule of 25% occupancy. Schools are making plans for a return to the school year, with in-person and virtual options still on the table.
While these conversations are taking place, and decisions are being made, it’s important not to forget those among us who are especially vulnerable. That includes those who have lost jobs because of the pandemic, struggle to make ends meet and pay the bills, and those who have found themselves unhoused or at risk of losing their homes.
As highlighted in this week’s edition, Catholic Charities of St. Louis has provided an ongoing response to the needs of others because of the pandemic. A July 24 distribution of food and personal items gave a boost to Maria Fernandez, who recently lost her job in the hospitality industry, because business had dried up.
“There’s no conventions, nothing there,” she said of the work she did at a hotel in Downtown St. Louis for eight years. “It’s a big problem.”
Likewise at the The Haven of Grace in the Old North neighborhood of St. Louis, pregnant women without a home find refuge and a place to regroup and work toward long-term goals of education, employment and stable housing. The organization recently received a grant from the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Fund, administered by the archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate.
Government assistance including federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act funding, and individual stimulus checks are helping to fill some of those gaps. Agencies such as Catholic Charities, which receives the support of the Annual Catholic Appeal, also are doing their part to meet the needs of the community through collaborative efforts such as the COVID-19 Regional Response Team.
But we know there are people who continue to fall through the cracks. In his message for World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis reflected on how many people stretched out a helping hand, even at the risk of their personal safety, during the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic also should make people aware of the fragility of life, the precariousness of their jobs and connections with others and about how little their normal busyness and patterns of consumption really matter, he wrote.
“Time devoted to prayer can never become an alibi for neglecting our neighbor in need,” Pope Francis wrote. “In fact, the very opposite is true: The Lord’s blessing descends upon us and prayer attains its goal when accompanied by service to the poor.”
“Prayer to God and solidarity with the poor and suffering are inseparable,” he wrote.
Our prayers should propel us to be there for the most vulnerable in our community. The pandemic has made a difficult situation nearly impossible for many. We must continue to provide our support through prayer and acts of service so that no one is forgotten.